Take a moment to remember

Memorial Day stirs emotions at opposite ends of the spectrum.

On the one hand, we celebrate the rewards made possible by the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. Because of their selfless devotion to duty, we enjoy freedoms that are the envy of the world, and we prosper in a homeland untouched by the devastation of war.

On the other hand, we mourn and honor those who paid the ultimate price for these rewards. These fallen heroes gave their lives in service to our nation, on the foreign soils of Europe, across the islands of the South Pacific, through the northern reaches of Korea, in the jungles of Vietnam, and in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Celebration and remorse; victory and death; hope and helplessness; relief and sadness: These are the conflicting emotions associated with Memorial Day. For every headline written about the success of a battle or conflict overseas, there are loved ones here in America who must endure never-ending pain.

America has asked our men and women of the U.S. armed forces to pay a very high price indeed, but the causes have been just.

If we value anything more than freedom, we will lose our freedom. If we value comfort or money more than freedom, we will lose that, too.

Throughout its history, America has given up its sons and daughters for the sake of world peace and freedom. America's intent has never been to conquer and suppress, but rather to defend and assist.

Ours is a country willing to use its military power for the good of humankind. Our guiding purpose has been nothing less than the eradication of tyranny. Is it any wonder that our military has been called to arms on a regular basis? Evil takes no holiday.

These fallen military heroes to whom we pay special homage on Memorial Day are much more than names on gravestones. They are symbols of our march toward a time when the world order will stand for justice, democracy, and economic freedom.

As Americans, it is our solemn obligation to remember their sacrifice.

This Memorial Day, we urge all Americans to participate in the National Moment of Remembrance, an observance to honor those who died in service to our nation. The moment occurs at 3 p.m. local time Monday, lasting for one minute.

The goal of the National Moment of Remembrance is to reclaim Memorial Day as the solemn event it was intended to be by:

» Bringing Americans together to simultaneously pause, remember and honor those who gave their lives in service to our nation

» Recognizing the value of our freedom and liberties we enjoy and the ultimate sacrifice made by our fallen heroes to keep us free and protect these liberties

» Making Memorial Day relevant to younger Americans.

On Monday, we urge all Georgians to pause from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or to listen to "Taps" in tribute to those who died in service to our country.

Pete Wheeler is commissioner of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service.